Pentax K-5 review
Pentax K-5 review - Performance
In use the K-5 is generally very adept indeed. The new focusing system is relatively fast - certainly the company's best yet - and this is down to its light-wavelength sensor that not only relies on the presence of light, but the colour of that light too. Although a certain improvement, it's the overall AF system that may simultaneously be the K-5's sticking point: there's nothing at all wrong with it, and the fact it has a wider and faster array than previous releases certainly deserves kudos, but if there's one thing lacking from Pentax's digital arsenal then it's a more complex focusing system. The last year has seen the company release an impressive 645D medium format digital system, a number of lenses and DSLR camera bodies and, given a little more work in the AF stakes, there's nothing else holding the Pentax brand back at all. For now its big steps rather than that giant leap - something, perhaps, to look forward to if the company launches a more professional grade DSLR in the future.
Pentax K-5 review test sample image - click for full size gallery
The live view mode is similar to that that released when the Pentax K-r was launched - the focus square area zooms right in to 100% in order to attain focus. This helps confirm to the user that the focus area is the correct one and it looks rather nifty too. Where there is limited contrast the focus may drift through the full range, but where the system detects prominent contrast it's very quick to lock on and find focus. It's an impressive system that's as fast as the competition out there, if not better than many. And it doesn't end there: in use there's the option of a real-time vertical and horizontal level display that helps ensure perfect alignment. It automatically adjusts for portrait and landscape orientated shooting and, for landscape-orientation only, also displays in the viewfinder too.
The viewfinder itself offers a full 100% field of view, meaning that what you see is what you get. And with 0.92x magnification it's a relatively large screen that's very almost the same size as close-run competitor cameras have to offer. It's the crucial full field of view that's the real winner here though, as even the relatively similar Canon 60D offers a marginally restricted 96%. The only slight qualm with the K-5's relatively shallow eyecup and a little more negative diopter adjustment wouldn't go amiss for glasses wearers.
From decent viewfinder to decent screen: the 3in offering on the rear of the camera is amply resolute and certainly does the job. However, assessing exposure in brighter conditions can be tricky, especially in the black areas - always ensure you rely on the histogram options or, for extra caution, the auto bracketing option certainly also proves useful.
As well as a super-fast 1/8000th second shutter speed, the K-5 is more than a bit fast when it comes to burst shooting. The ability to capture 7fps in continuous shooting is certainly impressive, but just make sure you have a fast enough card to maintain a sustained burst. We managed 20 frames using a Class 4 (15MB/s) SDXC card and this huge stream of files took just over a minute to clear - however the camera is not entirely inoperable during this write period and additional shots can be taken at a far slower pace if needed. Go with JPEG only shooting and, surprisingly, only expect to reel off the same 20 frames before there's a pause in shooting (though the buffer is cleared in less than 20 seconds ).
The K-5's kit purchase offers an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 WR (Weather Resistant) option, though this feels to be a bit of a mis-match. When spending over £1000 on a camera, a basic 18-55mm lens really isn't likely to be at the top of your wish list and it's a shame that Pentax has taken so long to release the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR (also a kit option), as this latter package, despite its £1530 street price, is relatively more suited. Other WR lenses are becoming available - including the 100mm f/2.8 Macro and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 - as the company releases more product, but this is an area that ought to see further investment, as well as faster, brighter aperture options.
Overall, though, the K-5 camera is a real treat to behold, and perhaps more of a step up from the K-7 than it would otherwise appear at first glance. The battery life is equally impressive too and will last for several hundred shots per charge (though the basic three bar battery gauge could do with being more accurate or even a percentage value).